How To Play 16th Notes Drum Exercises

16th Note Drum Exercises

16th note drum exercises

Once you have mastered basic “Duple” rhythms and “Triple” rhythms, you can understand and play virtually any rhythms you will encounter.

This is certainly a great secret to drumming success. If you have some drumming and music reading experience, don’t make the mistake of thinking this all looks too easy and you can already do this.

Go through this lesson and look deeper for the power in mastering all of these rhythm variations. 

Quarter Notes, Eighth Notes, and Sixteenth Notes



In Lesson Four, we began looking at very simple exercises containing 8th notes and 16th notes. Feeling and understanding the relationship between these rhythms and being able to play them properly is the first step in being able to play any kind of groove, beat or rhythm in drumming.

After you have a feel for this we want to explore what is called “rhythm vocabulary.”

16th Note Timing Grid



The illustration below represents all of the rhythm variations possible using four 16th notes in one count. I call this the “16th Note Timing Grid.

Rhythm #1 is all four 16th notes within a single count. Then Rhythms #2-#5 are the variation possible if we play just 3 of the notes. Then Rhythms #6 – #11 are derived from playing just two of the notes. Rhythms #12 – #14 play just one of the notes and finally Rhythm #15 is playing none of the notes.

All “duple” music (rhythms divisible by two) can be broken down into one of these 16 different rhythm variations.

Master all of these and you can read and play any duple rhythm you will every encounter!

16th Note Timing, 4-2-1 Format



The next exercise is a standard and illustrates an awesome application of these rhythms to develop your tempo and rhythm control.

The first measure (Rhythm #1) serves as the “check pattern” to all the other rhythms. Each rhythm variation should “fit inside” the check pattern rhythm.

How To Play 16th Notes

“Triple” Rhythm Vocabulary



The 8 rhythms below illustrate all of the possible combinations of rhythms using three notes in one count (triplets). This constitutes a “language” or “vocabulary” of rhythm used to create all the rhythms found in “triplet” based music. Triple time includes rhythms divisible by three.

Practice counting and playing each rhythm below. Pay careful attention to the sticking under each note. Also Use the rhythms below to create the triplet versions of “4-2-1” and “rhythm insert”.

Triplet Timing – “Triple” Rhythm Grid


drumming 16th notes


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